Tom Whitehead, Telegraph (London), April 30, 2013
It was a plot that could have led to mass deaths and sparked a race war–and yet it was only by sheer luck and the incompetence of the terror group that it failed.
Six Islamic fanatics, inspired by al-Qaeda, planned to attack a rally of the English Defence League (EDL) with homemade bombs, guns and knives.
It is possible they wanted to assassinate the far-right group’s leader Tommy Robinson, who was due to speak at the event.
Despite one of them being under watch by MI5 and two others also known to the counter-terror agencies, the only reason the plot failed was because the Jihadist group turned up too late for the event.
And the only reason they were caught was because one of the group accidentally gave a car insurance company the wrong registration meaning one of their vehicles was stopped by a traffic officer on its way home.
The six-strong group was a mixture of British and foreign born Muslims all living in Birmingham.
Omar Khan, 28, Mohammed Hasseen, 23, both of Sparkhill, and Mohammed Saud, 22, from Smethwick are British.
Jewel Uddin, 27, of Sparkhill was born in Bangladesh while Zohaib Kamran Ahmed, 22, of Alum Rock and Anzal Hussain, 24, of Moseley, were born in Pakistan.
The group planned to target an EDL rally in Dewsbury on June 30 last year and turned up heavily armed with explosives, two shot guns and up to a dozen knives and machetes.
EDL leader Tommy Robinson was due to speak at the event, which involved up to 700 supporters, and it was expected to run all afternoon.
However, Mr Robinson cancelled his appearance and the rally wound up around 2pm.
The terror group did not arrive in the town until 4pm, by which time the EDL demonstrators had left.
It was on the journey back to Birmingham that the police and security services had their second stroke of luck.
Khan and Uddin were travelling in a Renault Laguna that they believed had been insured for that day.
A South Yorkshire Police traffic officer on routine patrol on the M1 motorway made a check on the vehicle and it flashed up as having no insurance.
It later transpired that Saud had made a slight error in the registration number when taking the policy out meaning it was not on the records.
The officer stopped the car and ordered it be impounded but even then the true scale of what he had stumbled across was not known.
The car was taken to the Woodhead Motors pound near Sheffield and sat there for two days before an inspection by staff unearthed a terror cache.
In the boot were two sawn-off shotguns, ammunition and a selection of knives and machetes.
When police arrived, they also discovered a homemade bomb adapted from a regular firework and three small, partially constructed pipe bombs.
The firework contained more than 350 nails and 187g of explosive, made up of twice the number of explosive pellets normally found in the rocket.
There was also CDs containing Islamic extremism, including lectures by the al-Qaeda fanatic Anwar al-Awlaki.
Crucially for the police, officers also found ten copies of a letter which spelt out the gang’s plans to attack the EDL and which was addressed to the Queen and David Cameron.
Khan, who was the driver of the Laguna, had given false details when he was stopped so an urgent hunt was launched to track him and his passenger down.
It quickly became clear that a larger group was involved as a second car, a Rover, had travelled with the Laguna to Dewsbury and left at the same time.
That car had contained Hussain, Saud and Ahmed. Hasseen had not travelled to Birmingham as he was at a wedding that day but all six men were soon identified and arrested over July 3 and 4.
Khan is believed to have been the bomb maker but fingerprints or DNA linked the other five to various other items found in the Laguna.
At one stage, shortly before his arrest he had even called the car pound to inquire whether he could go and collect “something” he had left in the car.
Uddin had been under watch by MI5 after he had been investigated during a separate plot in 2011 by a Birmingham gang to attack the UK with eight suicide bombers.
The three ringleaders of that group were convicted earlier this year and others either pleaded guilty or await a further trial.
There was insufficient evidence to link Uddin, who had been seen carrying out street collections with members of the other terror gang, with the plot.
He remained under surveillance but only as a “low level” risk and on June 25 was seen with Khan going in to a shop in Birmingham.
It later emerged the men bought kitchen knives in that shop which were found in the back of the Laguna car.
Two of the other defendants were also known to the police and security services.
Hussain is the brother of Ishaaq Hussain, who was part of the suicide bomb plot group.
At the time of his arrest, Ahmed was on bail on charges of possessing terrorist material, the Inspire magazine, for which he was later jailed for 14 months in October last year.
Sources insist there was no intelligence to link Uddin with the others or anything to indicate a coherent group.
There was also no intelligence to suggest a plot to target the EDL.
Analysis of computers seized after the arrests showed the group had researched the EDL in depth, including details of Mr Robinson, for up to a month before the rally.
They had also researched an EDL rally held in Rochdale on June 9 before turning their attention to the Dewsbury one.
The men had left their mobile phones behind on the day they travelled to Dewsbury indicating they were conscious of possible surveillance and did not want the temptation of using their phones.